US-Japan alliance and China

Updated: 2014-05-29 08:02

By Kumiko Haba (China Daily)

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The world fears a "face-off" between Japan and China at the Shangri-La Dialogue, to be held in Singapore from May 30 to June 1. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to deliver a speech at the "track one" annual security forum, which is highly likely to invite criticism from Chinese diplomats.

Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December angered Chinese and Korean people because it honors 14 Class-A war criminals. Abe's Cabinet members followed his example to visit the shrine last month, inviting strong reactions from China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and even the United States.

The late Japanese emperor Showa stopped visiting Yasukuni Shrine after the Class-A war criminals were enshrined there in 1979. The reigning emperor has followed that practice.

But Abe has ignored even the imperial practice and visited the shrine, which along with his attempt to revise the Constitution has evoked strong reactions from China. The US administration, too, is worried because the revival of nationalism in Japan will intensify tensions in East Asia and consequently alienate the US from the region. In fact, that's the reason why the US has stressed the importance of the US-Japan alliance and declared that it is committed to collaborating with Japan to maintain the existing regional order, especially on the security front, in East Asia.

The US also demands economic concessions from Japan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. During his visit to Japan in April, US President Barack Obama not only emphasized the importance of the US-Japan alliance, but also reiterated that the US-Japan security treaty applies to the disputed Diaoyu Islands and that Tokyo should share the military burden for maintaining the alliance.

Since the rightward tilt of Japan is influenced by the Washington-Tokyo alliance, there is a possibility that the strengthening of the Japanese military and discussions on the Collective Self-Defense Right might boost Japan's right-wing forces.

Obama has been critical of Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine and his denial of the "comfort-women" issue, so he has urged the Japanese prime minister to accept the Kono Statement. In 1993, Yohei Kono, then chief cabinet secretary of Japan, issued a statement after a government study found that the Imperial Japanese Army had indeed forced women, known as "comfort women", to work in military-run brothels during World War II.

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